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The Sacrament of the Sick


“Is anyone among you sick? They should call for the priests of the church, and he will pray over them and anoint the sick with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise them up. If they have committed any sins, they will be forgiven.”   — Letter of St. James 5:14-15

Serious Illness and Death

The Anointing of the Sick is for those who are facing serious and significant physical illnesses that can put one in danger of death. It is celebrated upon hospitalization, prior to any significant surgery, extended medical treatments (e.g. chemotherapy). “Last Rites” are celebrated when death approaches. The Rite includes Confession, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Communion (“Viaticum”)

Source of Healing

When the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is given, the hoped-for effect is that, if it be God’s will, the person be physically healed of illness. But even if there is no physical healing, the primary effect of the Sacrament is a spiritual healing by which the sick person receives the Holy Spirit’s gift of peace and courage to deal with the difficulties that accompany serious illness or the frailty of old age.

The Sacraments of the Sick: Anointing

The healing that occurs in this sacrament of anointing is not necessarily physical healing. While we believe that physical healing can occur through the great power of God, the grace that is infused through this special sacrament is the reminder of the eternal presence of God in our human suffering.

The Rite of Anointing tells us there is no need to wait until a person is at the point of death to receive the Sacrament. A careful judgment about the serious nature of the illness is sufficient. The Sacrament may be repeated if the sick person recovers after the anointing but becomes ill once again, or if, during the same illness, the person’s condition becomes more serious. A person should be anointed before surgery when a dangerous illness is the reason for the intervention (cf. Rite of Anointing, Introduction, nos. 8-10).

Moreover, “old people may be anointed if they are in weak condition even though no dangerous illness is present. Sick children may be anointed if they have sufficient use of reason to be comforted by this sacrament. . . . [The faithful] should be encouraged to ask for the anointing, and, as soon as the time for the anointing comes, to receive it with faith and devotion, not misusing the sacrament by putting it off” (Rite of Anointing, nos. 11, 12, 13).

The Anointing of the Sick (non-emergency) is available by request from one of the priests. To make an appointment please contact the parish office or see one of the priests on Sunday after Mass. The nature of the sacrament is communal and so it is a great opportunity for the entire family to gather and pray. The Rite is simple and inviting.


Emergency / Last Rites

If your loved one is hospitalized, the local parish closest to the hospital is responsible for Anointings and Last Rites in emergency situations. The local parishes responsible for emergency anointing are:

  • INOVA—Lorton—Our Lady of Angels, Woodbridge
    • 703-232-4069 (Sacramental emergency number)
  • INOVA—Mt. Vernon—Good Shepherd, Alexandria
    • 703-780-4055 (Main Number; option for emergency )
  • INOVA—Fairfax (Hospital’s Chaplain’s office 24/7)
    • 703-776-3767
  • INOVA—Fair Oaks—St. Veronica’s, Chantilly
    • 703-773-2000 (Main Number; after hours will go to a recording with an option for Sacramental Emergencies)
  • INOVA—Alexandria—Blessed Sacrament, Alexandria
    • Sacramental Emergency: 703-998-6107
  • Mary Washington Hospital—St. Mary’s, Fredericksburg
    • 540-373-6491 (Main Number; after hours leave message with answering service)
  • Prince William Hospital—All Saints, Manassas
    • 703-263-5138 (priest’s pager)
  • Sentara Hospital—Our Lady of Angels, Woodbridge
    • 703-232-4069 (sacramental emergency number)
  • Spotsylvania Hospital—St. Jude, Fredericksburg
    • 540-373-6491 (Main Number; after hours leave message with answering service)
  • Stafford Hospital—St. William of York, Stafford
    • 540-659-1102 (Main Number; will connect to emergency number after hours)
  • Virginia Hospital —St. Ann’s, Arlington
    • 703-528-6276 (Main Number: after hours option for sacramental emergency will ring in all parish offices, priests’ offices and rectory)
    • 301-369-1102 (priest’s pager: call number, input number to call back, followed by the #sign)

Outside of emergency anointings in the hospital, to request a priest from St. Francis to administer Anointing of the Sick, please contact the parish office by phone (703) 221-4044. After business hours, please call the Sacramental Emergency line (703) 468-1180. (Note: please do not use the emergency line for non-sacramental reasons)


Visiting the Sick and Homebound

There are times when we are limited physically by illness, surgery or other reasons. A visit by a friendly parishioner can add to our quality of life. There are several ways for our church to respond, depending upon the need.

Stephen Ministry is the one-to-one lay caring ministry.   Caregivers, called Stephen Ministers, provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered care to people who are hurting. Please follow this link for more information about Stephen Ministry or contact Kathy Walker (703-221-4044, ext 233)

Eucharistic Ministers make visits to parishioners in the hospital or in personal homes to provide the sick or homebound with the opportunity to participate in Eucharist, when they are not able to participate in the Mass. To schedule a minister to make a visit or multiple visits, please visit our Eucharistic Ministry to the Homebound page. In addition you may also contact Chanel Marquis (703-221-4044, ext. 222).


Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some additional FAQs that folks ask as regards the celebration of the Sacrament of the Sick / Anointing. Let us know if you have more questions … who knows, we might add them to this list!!



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Who is the minister of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick?

According to the General Introduction to Pastoral Care of the Sick, “The priest is the only proper minister of the anointing of the sick. This office is ordinarily exercised by bishops, pastors and their assistants, chaplains of health-care facilities, and superiors of clerical religious institutes” (Pastoral Care of the Sick 8).

Who can be anointed and receive the Anointing of the Sick?

The General Introduction sets forth the norm that the anointing of the sick is intended for “those of the faithful whose health is seriously impaired by sickness or old age” (PCS 8). A person who is facing surgery may be anointed if the reason for the surgery is a serious illness (PCS 10). In addition, the elderly may be anointed “if they have become notably weakened even though no serious illness is present” (PCS 11). Children may be anointed “if they have sufficient use of reason to be strengthened by this sacrament” (PCS 12). For baptized Catholics who once had the use of reason and have subsequently lost it through unconsciousness, mental illness, or memory loss may be anointed if the person would have “asked for it when they were in control of their faculties” (PCS 14).

What constitutes serious illness?

The law does not specify what constitutes a serious illness but leaves this determination to those who are involved, especially a priest who is the minister of the sacrament. According to the General Introduction, “a prudent or reasonably sure judgment, without scruple, is sufficient for deciding on the seriousness of an illness; if necessary a doctor may be consulted” (PCS 8). In other words, a normal judgment is to be used by the priest in determining if the person is seriously ill and, if necessary, a physician may be consulted in helping the priest make his determination.

In a footnote to paragraph eight referenced above, “the word periculose has been carefully studied and rendered as “seriously,” rather than as “gravely,” “dangerously,” or “perilously.” Such a rendering will serve to avoid restrictions upon the celebration of the sacrament. On the one hand, the sacrament may and should be given to anyone whose health is seriously impaired; on the other hand, it may not be given indiscriminately or to any person whose health is not seriously impaired” (PCS 8, footnote 8).

According to Canon 1005, if there is any doubt about whether the person is seriously ill, the minister may anoint.

Can the Sacrament of the Sick be repeated and how often?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that “the Anointing of the Sick ‘is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly arrived’” (1514). “If a person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same illness the person’s condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated” (1515). Thus, a person can be anointed during progressive stages of the same illness.

Do we ever anoint someone who has already died?

The simple answer is no. We do not anoint those who have already died. Sacraments are for the living. We do, however, want to help console any family members who are present at the death of a loved one. Priests or deacons or lay ministers may be called to assist with the consolation of family members. The Church has some fine prayers and her tradition of pastoral care to offer for the living family members at this time.

Why isn’t it called the “Last Rites” anymore?

The renewed rites of the Church call this sacrament the Anointing of the Sick. It is no longer called “Extreme Unction” or “the last anointing.” This reflects the Church’s belief that this sacrament is for any person who is seriously sick or elderly. This sacrament can be celebrated several times in a person’s lifetime, whenever a sickness or advanced age causes a person to be concerned for their spiritual welfare.

What does the Rite for the Sacrament of the Sick involve?

Very simply, the Sacrament of the Sick consists of prayers, a laying on of hands by a priest, and an anointing with the holy oil of the sick. The rite may include private confession, and Holy Communion may be given to the sick person if he/she is able to receive.

Can family members be present for the anointing?

Yes, definitely. All sacraments of the Church are, by nature, communal acts. The Church encourages family members and other members of the Church to be present for the celebration.

Communal Celebrations of the Anointing of the Sick

The Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy Newsletter maintains that the communal celebration of the Anointing of the Sick “does not allow for indiscriminate anointing of all who are sick, but only of those who are seriously so” (BCL, March 1974, PCS 108). It is for this reason, especially in the communal celebration of The Anointing of the Sick, the judgment about those who will be anointed should be predetermined. The celebrant should know who is to be anointed, having been involved in the judgment about the seriousness of the illness. Such a prearranged determination will allow the priest to properly catechize the persons to be anointed about the meaning and purpose of the sacrament.

Also, “those to minister to the sick or take part in a communal celebration but are themselves in good health may not be anointed out of ‘solidarity with the sick.’ Such an abuse is to be avoided, since it weakens and destroys the meaning of anointing as a sacrament for the sick” (BCL, March-April 1979, PCS 108).